Ever since Clara Walls moved into her home more than 45 years ago, her front porch has served as a welcoming conduit for countless friends and loved ones. The leaky roof was disheartening. Walls couldn’t afford it fix it. But, even then, that seasoned porch connected her to another life-saving relationship.
“I would never have been able to do, for myself, the things that Project Houseworks did for me,” says Walls, 85.
Project Houseworks provides no-cost home repairs and home modifications to hundreds of local seniors each year. Walls and her leaky porch roof were referred in autumn 2018, which led to a phone interview and a visit from Sara Zivny, Project Housework’s program manager.
“Sara was standing at the door and said, ‘May we come in, because we not only help on the outside of peoples’ homes, we also help on the inside.’”
To achieve its overarching goal – helping seniors like Walls age in safe and healthy homes – Project Houseworks employs two full-time, in-house construction specialists and taps a roster of about 30 paid contractors.
“We do not ask for discounts, but all of our contractors understand the population we serve requires special attention,” says Lynette Farhart, executive director.
Project Houseworks coordinated the replacement of Walls’ roof and gutters, but the scope of work didn’t end there. An inside-out inspection of her home revealed a need for several modifications. Work crews relocated the basement laundry to the main level of the home, converted the bathtub to a walk-in shower, installed handrails on stairs and replaced worn-out carpeting — all free of charge.
Then there was the free furnace inspection Project Houseworks arranged during its Warm the Metro volunteer event that may have saved Walls’ life. A technician with Hans Heating and Air Conditioning discovered and rectified a carbon monoxide leak.
“Those stories happen almost every year,” says Jamie Fitzgerald, sales manager. “We deal with scary stuff.”
Inspired by a business owner who is “always looking for opportunities to give back to our community,” Hans Heating and Air Conditioning has been involved with Warm the Metro for several years now. The event is held each October in collaboration with the Heating and Cooling Contractors Association.
“We’re all doing it for the same reason — it’s the right thing to do,” Fitzgerald says.
Project Houseworks is also bolstered by Powering Hope, an annual event in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 22. Every April, electricians and journeymen donate their time to provide free electrical repairs.
Project Houseworks also hosts a Brush Up paint-a-thon each August.
Supported, in part, with funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Project Houseworks has assisted more than 2,500 seniors and their families since its inception in 1996.
Walls says the program has done more than repair and modify her home; it has built her morale.
“I never knew there would be any organization or people that would be this nice to me or do this much for me,” she says. “They are the greatest, and they still keep up with me.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, celebrating people living their best lives and inspiring others to do the same.